Romania and Bulgaria (and Moldova too!!)

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1. Posted by Piecar (Travel Guru 1162 posts) 1y Star this if you like it!

Planning a trip to the above places and I'm going to rent a car. I can see all the cities the guides want me to see, but I find it easier to drive through towns . Anybody have any little gems there that could use some tourist money?
I don't know much about Moldova, so maybe I won't be driving there unless someone knows it and thinks well of it.
Thanks, in advance for the help.
D

2. Posted by AndyF (Moderator 1286 posts) 1y Star this if you like it!

Lol! You sound like some beneficent Santa Claus throwing handfuls of tourist dollars out of the car to the peasants! :-)

On a practical note, look at the issues of taking a hire car across those borders. They're non-Schengen countries so could be a few hours bureaucracy to take a car across, or the hire company may not permit it. Moldova in particular I'd be concerned with - and in the east take a look into the Transnistria breakaway republic.

In Romania the area around Brasov was scenic with plenty to see. In Bulgaria I often hear recommendations for Plovdiv and the valley of the roses, although so far my travels have been either east or west of there.

In all three countries I've heard warnings of tourists being targets for scams and corruption, by local police and mafia, but then in all three I've heard people who've driven there say it's fine. So I'm unsure but wary.

3. Posted by bex76 (Moderator 3932 posts) 1y Star this if you like it!

In Bulgaria, Sofia is worth a couple of days, and don't miss Rila Monastery (the highlight of Bulgaria for me). Plovdiv is an interesting place to spend a day or two.

4. Posted by Piecar (Travel Guru 1162 posts) 1y Star this if you like it!

Oh, I would never try to cross a border in a rental. Two different cars.
Thanks for the tips. I'll look to incorporate them.

5. Posted by harbinger (Budding Member 39 posts) 1y 3 Star this if you like it!

We did a two week road trip through Romania three years ago, and absolutely loved it - to the point where we are itching to get back and explore the north and west of the country. We picked up a car from the airport in Bucharest, and didn't experience any problems whatsoever.
The absolute highlight was driving the Transfagarasan Pass, which is breathtakingly beautiful and a marvel of road engineering. The pass is closed for about half the year due to snow - there are big metal doors on a tunnel which they close off - and when we were there (in late June), it had only just opened. Unfortunately the opening dates are weather-dependent, so if you're not travelling in high summer, you may have to do some research on this.
We spent the majority of our time in Transylvania (just the sound of it is so exotic!), which is enchantingly pretty, both in terms of landscape and towns - the area was settled by German Saxons several hundred years ago, which gives it a distinctly different atmosphere to the rest of the country. If you are travelling in high summer, it is also likely to be a little cooler because of its elevated location.
Sibiu and Sighisoara are probably the most heavily touristed towns, and I imagine that Sighisoara gets unpleasantly busy in peak summer season, but both are still lovely and well worth visiting. Brasov is a nice town, and if you're an animal lover, the nearby (but somewhat difficult to find) Libearation Bear Sanctuary is a must - the founder has made it her life's mission to rescue captive bears from zoos and restaurants so they can live out the rest of their lives with dignity in beautiful natural surroundings.
The towns were lovely, but from our point of view, the fortified churches were the stars of the show, and as these are located in smaller villages, it really pays to have a car. There are quite a number, so you'll be spoiled for choice - our favourite was the amazing white fortified church at Viscri (the neighbouring sleepy village is also lovely) and the church at Biertan, which houses a medieval lock with an astonishingly intricate mechanism that wouldn't be out of place in a Harry Potter movie. The countryside is just enchanting, with storks nesting on rooftops and atmospheric villages that have probably changed very little over the past couple of centuries. This is the real charm of the region, so I would resist the temptation to 'overplan' your itinerary, and instead book accommodation in a couple of centres and spend your days wandering semi-aimlessly, exploring whatever attractions you stumble across.
We are keen birdwatchers, so we also drove up to the Danube Delta. It was nice, but stinking hot with fewer types and numbers of birds than we'd hoped for, and in all honesty, now we've been, I wouldn't do it again. We drove back down to Bucharest along the Black Sea coast, which probably was lovely once, but is now given over to horrible strips of soulless concrete hotels aimed at the Russian tourist market. Just awful.
Bucharest gets awful press because so much of the more historic part was demolished by Ceaucescu, but I still found it an interesting place to spend a day or so - the colossal wedding cake structure of the Palace of the Parliament just has to be seen to be believed.

6. Posted by Piecar (Travel Guru 1162 posts) 1y Star this if you like it!

One could not possibly hope for a more helpful or complete bit of information than that. I thank you for the time you put into this answer, and it helps me immensely.
I agree, I never travel with too stringent a plan. Just a vague direction, and off I go. That's exactly why I wanted to get a car, to just go where the winds took me. It was great success in the south of Spain last year, and from what you've said here, that trend continues.
My only other question, then, is what car company you used, and if you found them worthy.

Thanks again for such an absolutely outstanding post.
D

7. Posted by harbinger (Budding Member 39 posts) 1y Star this if you like it!

Only a pleasure :)
I always use www.novacarhire.com who are based in Ireland.
They consistently come up with competitive prices (maybe not quite the cheapest), but crucially, we have never been disappointed. They act as agents for the major companies, so chances are you'll end up dealing with 'name brand' car hire companies. What's most important is that if you pay attention to what you're booking (for example, making sure to book unlimited mileage where you expect to do heavy mileage), we have never encountered any nasty gremlins in the agreement.
We were six people travelling with a mountain of luggage and were planning to self cater, so we hired an MPV, and it was just great.

Post 8 was removed by a moderator
9. Posted by Piecar (Travel Guru 1162 posts) 1y Star this if you like it!

I just booked through the place you mentioned. The price was SO low that I chickened out four times before finally going through with it. I checked everything, yet still far cheaper than I thought.

10. Posted by harbinger (Budding Member 39 posts) 1y Star this if you like it!

What a pleasant surprise! :)
The car hire booths are in the main terminal, although the pick up/return areas may be a short drive away, depending on who you're hiring through. A shuttle is provided, so this shouldn't be a worry.
I would suggest that you pick up a decent map of Romania before you go: we are unashamedly old fashioned, and believe that there are few experiences that beat the excitement of an open map and a full tank of fuel. Google Maps or other GPS systems should work fine in most places, but up in the mountains, the coverage may be sporadic.